PUTRAJAYA: The World Conference of Muslim Scholars starting today aims to explore a bigger role for ulamas (scholars) in the new era of globalisation by making them the referral point for any problem ailing the Muslim community rather than limiting their role only to matters related to faith.
Towards this end, the conference is expected to discuss the setting up a permanent secretariat that will function as a think tank for Muslim scholars worldwide with expertise in various fields.
Conference adviser Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Othman said the Government had expressed a willingness to host the secretariat, which could also act as the referral centre for all ulamas worldwide.
He said Muslims traditionally had always turned to ulamas when they needed religious problems solved or for advice on religious matters.
This advisory role of the ulamas, however, had never been fully explored in other fields.
Abdul Hamid said if the secretariat became a reality, it would provide an avenue for ulamas to converge and discuss issues affecting Muslims and, if possible, come up with a standard and universal interpretation on any relevant issue that could strengthen unity.
“Take for instance the tendency of some Muslim groups to lean towards militancy due to their misconception about jihad. That is not the teaching of Islam, but the misbehaviour of certain Muslims.
“The saddest part is, the repercussion is felt by all Muslims worldwide like the damage suffered by the Muslims following the 911 attacks in New York and Washington and, later, the attack in Bali,” he said.
Abdul Hamid also expressed hope the conference would be able to correct the many wrong interpretations of the Quran and the religion’s teachings that had weakened the community.
One area that needed to be addressed fast, he said, was the disunity and abject poverty among many Muslims.
This seriousness of this problem, he said, could clearly be seen when Iraq was attacked by the combined power of the United States and Britain.
“Muslim countries were hapless in the face of that threat.
“Few dared show open opposition to the US-led attack, either because economically and militarily they are not in a position to do so or because they don’t feel any affinity towards the Muslims in Iraq.
“This shows that Muslims do not see the need to strive for economic independence as part of Islamic teaching. They still depend on the ancient perspective that religion is only about faith and the after life and not about looking after the welfare of the community and the proper management of human resources,” he added.
Other objectives of the conference are to widen the minds of the community so that Muslims can understand fully the separate issues of religion and politics and to bring forth resourceful ideas for the community to be both driver and catalyst of its own success.
The three-day conference, held at Marriott Hotel here and the first of its kind is expected to be attended by over 800 participants, including 90 established foreign scholars, and will see 22 working papers presented.
Among the scholars is the Sheikh of Al-Azhar of Egypt, Dr Sayyid Muhammad Tantawi, who will deliver a keynote address entitled True Religion in Facing Challenges of Globalisation.
Other working papers will focus on current issues and the future direction of Muslims in the modern world.